Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

May AD 2009
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Communion in the Hand?
Moral Issues of the Great Depression



    Question:  Why do you insist that people receive Holy Communion only by having It placed on their tongues?  Surely It was handed to communicants in the early centuries of the Church.  And it seems so unsanitary to have the priest put his fingers in everyone’s mouth!  How about the Eastern Rites wherein people receive from the chalice?

    Answer:  I just received this from Our Lady of the Rosary Library, written some time ago by the renowned Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand.  It doesn’t mention the (non)-issue of sanitary practice, for there isn’t one.  Properly instructed Catholics open their mouths wide enough and extend their tongues so the priest can place the Host without ever touching any part of the mouth.  (The only exception I have ever experienced was when a Modernist, disgruntled by my refusal to place the Host in his hands, bit me!)

    The eastern Catholic practice is to administer Communion under both forms by dipping an oblong Host into the Precious Blood at one end (or a cube shaped Host taken out of the Precious Blood on a golden spoon, and dropping It into the communicant’s open and upturned mouth.  Again, no contact is made with the mouth, nor with the spoon, nor with the fingers.

    Read what von Hildebrand had to say:


Dietrich von Hildebrand, called by Pope Pius XII "the 20th Century Doctor of the Church," was one of the world's most eminent Catholic philosophers. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) wrote about Dietrich von Hildebrand in the year 2000: "I am firmly convinced that, when at some time in the future, the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time."   The following article by Dietrich von Hildebrand, entitled "Communion in the hand should be rejected," was published November 8, 1973:

There can be no doubt that Communion in the hand is an expression of the trend towards desacralization in the Church in general and irreverence in approaching the Eucharist in particular. The ineffable mystery of the bodily presence of Christ in the consecrated host calls for a deeply reverent attitude. (To take the Body of Christ in our unanointed hands -- just as if it were a mere piece of bread is something in itself deeply irreverent and detrimental for our faith.)  Dealing with this unfathomable mystery as if we were merely dealing with nothing but another piece of bread, something we naturally do every day with mere bread, makes the act of faith in the real bodily presence of Christ more difficult. Such behavior toward the consecrated host slowly corrodes our faith in the bodily presence and fosters the idea that it is only a symbol of Christ. To claim that taking the bread in our hands increases the sense of the reality of the bread is an absurd argument. The reality of the bread is not what matters -- that is also visible for any atheist. But the fact that the host is in reality the Body of Christ -- the fact that transubstantiation has taken place -- this is the theme which must be stressed.

 Arguments for Communion in the hand based upon the fact that this practice can be found among the early Christians is not really valid. They overlook the dangers and the inadequacy of re-introducing the practice today. Pope Pius XII spoke in very clear and unmistakable terms against the idea that one could re-introduce today customs from the times of the catacombs. Certainly we should try to renew in the souls of Catholics today the spirit, fervor, and heroic devotion found in the faith of the early Christians and the many martyrs from among their ranks. But simply adopting their customs is something else again; customs can assume a completely new function today, and we cannot and should not simply try to re-introduce them.

 In the days of the catacombs the danger of desacralization and irreverence which threatens today was not present. The contrast between the saeculum and the holy Church was constantly in the minds of Christians. Thus a custom which was not danger in those times can constitute a grave pastoral danger in our day.

Consider how St. Francis regarded the extraordinary dignity of the priest which consists exactly in the fact that he is allowed to touch the Body of Christ with his anointed hands. St. Francis said: "If I were to meet at the same time a saint from heaven and a poor priest, I would first show my respect to the priest and quickly kiss his hand, and then I would say: 'O wait, St. Lawrence, for the hands of this man touch the Word of Life and possess a good far surpasses everything that is human.'"

Someone may say: but did not St. Tarcisius distribute Communion though he was no priest? Surely no one was scandalized because he touched the consecrated host with his hands. And in an emergency, a layman is today allowed to give Communion to others.

But this exception for emergency cases is not something which implies a lack of respect for the holy Body of Christ. It is a privilege justified by emergency -- which should be accepted with trembling heart (and should remain a privilege, reserved only for an emergency).

The traditional practice of the Church and the 1917 Code of Canon Law: Specifically, Canon 845. § l which states that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is ONLY the priest.  Canon 845, § 2 states that the extraordinary minister is only the deacon. The sacramental theology book, The Administration of the Sacraments (1963 edition) by Nicholas Halligan, O.P., explains:  "It is a certain teaching that the priest alone is the ordinary minister of Holy Communion." (Nicholas Halligan, O.P., The Administration of the Sacraments, 1963, p. 107, Imprimatur: Cardinal Spellman)

 "The pastor has the exclusive right to bring Viaticum both publicly and privately to the sick in his parish, even to those not his parishioners." (p. 108)

 "By ordination a deacon is the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion but only with permission of the local Ordinary or of the pastor granted by either for a serious reason, but this permission may be presumed in case of need. Apart from necessity a deacon would not be justified in acting without permission." (p. 108)

 "The deacon in administering Holy Communion observes the ceremonies as prescribed for the priest.... Unlike inferior clerics the deacon, although sinning gravely [Note: if the deacon distributes Communion without permission of the pastor or without grave reason], does not incur an irregularity if he acts without permission." (p. 108)]

 But there is a great difference between this case of touching the consecrated host with our unanointed hands and that of taking Communion in the hand as a matter of course -- on all occasions. To be allowed to touch the consecrated host with unanointed hands is in no way presented to the faithful as an awe-inspiring privilege. It becomes the normal form of receiving Communion. And this fosters an irreverent attitude and thus corrodes faith in the real bodily presence of Christ.

It is taken for granted that everyone receives the consecrated host in his hand. The layman to whom the great privilege is granted for special reasons has to touch the host, of course. But there is no reason for receiving Communion in the hand; only an immanent spirit of paltry familiarity with Our Lord.

It is incomprehensible why some insist on a way of receiving Communion which opens the door to all sorts of accidental and even intentional abuses.

First, there is a much greater possibility that some particles of the consecrated host may fall. In former times the priest watched with great care whether or not some particles of the host fell, in which case he would immediately take greatest care that the sacred particles would be reverently picked up and consumed by himself. And now without any apparent reason, many want to expose the consecrated host to this danger in a much greater degree than before -- this at a time when the host is made more and more to resemble bread and to crumble more easily.

Second, and this is an incomparably worse problem, the danger exists that a communicant, instead of putting the consecrated host into his mouth, will place it in his pocket or otherwise conceal and not consume it. This unfortunately has happened in these days of revived Satanism. Consecrated hosts are known to have been sold for blasphemous uses. In London, the price is said to be 30 pounds for one, which reminds us of the 30 pieces of silver for which Judas sold the Body of Our Lord.

Is it believable that instead of applying the most scrupulous care to protect the most sacred consecrated host, which is truly the Body of Christ, the God-man, from all such possible abuses, there are those who wish to expose it to this possibility? Have we forgotten the existence of the devil "who wanders about seeking whom he may devour"? Is his work in the world and in the Church not all too visible today? What entitles us to assume that abuses of the consecrated host will not take place?

The greater our respect, and the greater our love, the greater our realization of the ineffable holiness of the Eucharist -- the greater will be our horror of its being abused; and our eagerness to protect it from all possible blasphemous abuses.

Why -- for God's sake -- should Communion in the hand be introduced into our churches when it is evidently detrimental from a pastoral viewpoint, when it certainly does not increase our reverence, and when it exposes the Eucharist to the most terrible diabolical abuses? There are really no serious arguments for Communion in the hand. But there are the most gravely serious kinds of arguments against it.

Our Lady of the Rosary Library "Pray and work for souls"



Question:  Were there moral aspects of the Great Depression?  A lot of people suffered for well over a decade.  Shouldn’t someone be held responsible?

[From last month:]

● World War I Winds Down ●

    As we have seen, the money supply in the United States during the war years rose about 70 percent, from $20.7‑Billion in 1916 to $35.1‑Billion in 1920.[1]  During the war the War Industries Board organized industrial cartels for the government planned production of war materials, and the War Finance Corporation funded “essential” companies that might otherwise have failed.  Whatever else one may think about President Wilson, he did understand the need to abolish the wartime cartels and return to more or less free enterprise, and to discontinue the wartime inflation of the currency.  To this end, he appointed David F. Houston as Secretary of the Treasury.  Wages and prices were allowed to seek their own levels and the government cut back on both taxes and spending—all time honored and historically successful methods for dealing with a contraction following a boom.  Wilson was succeeded by the Republican administrations of Harding and then Coolidge, who generally followed the same “laissez‑faire—hands off” policies.  The return to economic normalcy was no more than a mild recession as unproductive businesses failed, wartime production gave way to normal production, and the economy adjusted to the new monetary levels—the recession of 1920-21 was indeed mild by later standards.  However, the easy credit arranged through the Federal Reserve during the 1920s would fuel a major problem at the end of the decade.

● Herbert  Hoover ●

    At the beginning of WWI, President Wilson designated Herbert Hoover as the United States’ Food Administrator.

    Hoover's program reduced domestic consumption of food by 15% without rationing. For the farmer there was "fair price" for agricultural products and guaranteed markets for surplus. The result was that U.S. food shipments tripled. He kept the American armies fed and was able to build up surplus stores of food to prevent a post-war famine in Europe.[2]

    Guaranteed prices and surplus markets may have helped the war effort, but they caused farmers to borrow and invest in land and equipment that would be over-productive after the war.  Decreased agricultural exports led to land foreclosures and a significant number of failures among the rural single-branch banks.

    Hoover remained in government after the war, both in Wilson’s Democrat administration, then in the Harding and Coolidge Republican administration as Secretary of Commerce.  Although Harding and Coolidge are remembered as laissez‑faire Presidents, Hoover was able to expand and thoroughly bureaucratize the Commerce Department.  Hoover was at least partly responsible for the Fed’s easy credit policy, inflating the money supply and misleading businessmen to make imprudent investments.  He championed labor over business, artificially increasing wage rates above productivity levels, which led to unemployment.  He sought to cartelize free enterprise, reducing competitive efficiencies and lower prices. Hoover urged high tariff rates to “protect” domestic industry from foreign imports.

    During Hoover’s time at Commerce, the Federal Reserve (under the advice Paul Warburg of Kuhn, Loeb, and Company, and one of the first board members of the Fed) further loosened credit by discounting acceptances, and particularly foreign acceptances at low rates.  Acceptances are bank guarantees that a buyer will make good on his purchase contracts, and the Fed was allowing banks to borrow inexpensively against acceptances they held.  In an attempt to return the British pound to its pre-war exchange rate, the Fed agreed to further inflation, engaging in large open market purchases of U.S. government securities in 1922, 1924, and 1927. (The Fed buys US bonds in exchange for “money” which it creates from nothing in order to make the purchase.)

    In November of 1928, Herbert Hoover was elected President.  Already it was perceptible that market speculation, fuelled with easy credit, was out of all proportion to the value of the companies traded.  Under Hoover the Fed tried to keep easy credit for industry, while urging banks not to loan for market speculation.  This “moral suasion” was largely unsuccessful, for money is money and tends to get used where its possessors see fit.

    In August 1929 the Fed, at the earlier request of Paul Warburg, belatedly raised the re-discount rate, tightening credit.  Too little too late—the October 24‑29 1929 Black Thursday-Black Tuesday stock market crash began the devastation of the American economy.

    Immediately after the crash, the Fed took a wait and see attitude, resigned to let failed businesses liquidate.  But at the beginning of 1930 the Hoover government requested the Fed to cut the re-discount rate from 4.5 percent to 2 percent in February.  Acceptance rates and call loan rates dropped accordingly.[3]

    In June 1930, in spite of the request of Henry Ford and over 1000 economists to veto it, Hoover enacted the Smoot-Hawley tariff to keep foreign goods out of US markets in order to find domestic purchasers for the high capacity of production of which US industry and agriculture had become capable with modern methods.  Foreign retaliation damaged US export industry and relations with foreign governments were damaged.

    U.S. imports from Europe declined from a 1929 high of $1,334 million to just $390 million in 1932, while U.S. exports to Europe fell from $2,341 million in 1929 to $784 million in 1932. Overall, world trade declined by some 66% between 1929 and 1934" (US Department of State)."[4]

    As private industry crashed, Hoover sought to maintain employment through public works programs, both at the federal and state levels—even the Roosevelt administration would not outspend Hoover on public works.  But government can only spend money which it sucks from the private sector, either through taxes or by debasing the currency. The 1932 the Revenue Act was one of the largest tax increases in American History:

    Many wartime excise taxes were revived, sales taxes were imposed on gasoline, tires, autos, electric energy, malt, toiletries, furs, jewelry, and other articles; admission and stock transfer taxes were increased; new taxes were levied on bank checks, bond transfers, telephone, telegraph, and radio messages; and the personal income tax was raised drastically as follows: the normal rate was increased from a range of 1½ percent-5 percent, to 4 percent-8 percent; personal exemptions were sharply reduced, and an earned credit of 25 percent eliminated; and surtaxes were raised enormously, from a maximum of 25 percent to 63 percent on the highest incomes. Furthermore, the corporate income tax was increased from 12 percent to 13¾ percent, and an exemption for small corporations eliminated; the estate tax was doubled, and the exemption floor halved; and the gift tax, which had been eliminated, was restored, and graduated up to 33⅓ percent.[5]

    The effect on the private sector, and the continuation of Hoover style policies by Franklin D. Roosevelt would continue the depression until the end of World War II, a decade and a half of government economic mismanagement and public misery.

[To be continued]


[1]   Rockoff, Hugh. “US Economy in World War I”.

[3]   Rothbard, America's Great Depression, p. 239-240

[5]   Rothbard, America's Great Deprtession, p. 287




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